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      A Mitochondrial Superoxide Signal Triggers Increased Longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans

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      PLoS Biology
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          Abstract

          The study of long-lived C. elegans mutants suggests that mitochondrial oxidants can actually help reduce aging by acting as stress signals, rather than acting solely as toxic molecules.

          Abstract

          The nuo-6 and isp-1 genes of C. elegans encode, respectively, subunits of complex I and III of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Partial loss-of-function mutations in these genes decrease electron transport and greatly increase the longevity of C. elegans by a mechanism that is distinct from that induced by reducing their level of expression by RNAi. Electron transport is a major source of the superoxide anion (O ), which in turn generates several types of toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS), and aging is accompanied by increased oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the generation and detoxification of ROS. These observations have suggested that the longevity of such mitochondrial mutants might result from a reduction in ROS generation, which would be consistent with the mitochondrial oxidative stress theory of aging. It is difficult to measure ROS directly in living animals, and this has held back progress in determining their function in aging. Here we have adapted a technique of flow cytometry to directly measure ROS levels in isolated mitochondria to show that the generation of superoxide is elevated in the nuo-6 and isp-1 mitochondrial mutants, although overall ROS levels are not, and oxidative stress is low. Furthermore, we show that this elevation is necessary and sufficient to increase longevity, as it is abolished by the antioxidants NAC and vitamin C, and phenocopied by mild treatment with the prooxidant paraquat. Furthermore, the absence of effect of NAC and the additivity of the effect of paraquat on a variety of long- and short-lived mutants suggest that the pathway triggered by mitochondrial superoxide is distinct from previously studied mechanisms, including insulin signaling, dietary restriction, ubiquinone deficiency, the hypoxic response, and hormesis. These findings are not consistent with the mitochondrial oxidative stress theory of aging. Instead they show that increased superoxide generation acts as a signal in young mutant animals to trigger changes of gene expression that prevent or attenuate the effects of subsequent aging. We propose that superoxide is generated as a protective signal in response to molecular damage sustained during wild-type aging as well. This model provides a new explanation for the well-documented correlation between ROS and the aged phenotype as a gradual increase of molecular damage during aging would trigger a gradually stronger ROS response.

          Author Summary

          An unequivocal demonstration that mitochondria are important for lifespan comes from studies with the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Mutations in mitochondrial proteins such as ISP-1 and NUO-6, which function directly in mitochondrial electron transport, lead to a dramatic increase in the lifespan of this organism. One theory proposes that toxicity of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) is the cause of aging and predicts that the generation of the ROS superoxide should be low in these mutants. Here we have measured superoxide generation in these mutants and found that it is in fact elevated, rather than reduced. Furthermore, we found that this elevation is necessary and sufficient for longevity, as it is abolished by antioxidants and induced by mild treatment with oxidants. This suggests that superoxide can act as a signal triggering cellular changes that attenuate the effects of aging. This idea suggests a new model for the well-documented correlation between ROS and the aged phenotype. We propose that a gradual increase of molecular damage during aging triggers a concurrent, gradually intensifying, protective superoxide response.

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          Most cited references56

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          The free radical theory of aging matures.

          The free radical theory of aging, conceived in 1956, has turned 40 and is rapidly attracting the interest of the mainstream of biological research. From its origins in radiation biology, through a decade or so of dormancy and two decades of steady phenomenological research, it has attracted an increasing number of scientists from an expanding circle of fields. During the past decade, several lines of evidence have convinced a number of scientists that oxidants play an important role in aging. (For the sake of simplicity, we use the term oxidant to refer to all "reactive oxygen species," including O2-., H2O2, and .OH, even though the former often acts as a reductant and produces oxidants indirectly.) The pace and scope of research in the last few years have been particularly impressive and diverse. The only disadvantage of the current intellectual ferment is the difficulty in digesting the literature. Therefore, we have systematically reviewed the status of the free radical theory, by categorizing the literature in terms of the various types of experiments that have been performed. These include phenomenological measurements of age-associated oxidative stress, interspecies comparisons, dietary restriction, the manipulation of metabolic activity and oxygen tension, treatment with dietary and pharmacological antioxidants, in vitro senescence, classical and population genetics, molecular genetics, transgenic organisms, the study of human diseases of aging, epidemiological studies, and the ongoing elucidation of the role of active oxygen in biology.
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            Regulation of aging and age-related disease by DAF-16 and heat-shock factor.

            A.-L. Hsu (2003)
            The Caenorhabditis elegans transcription factor HSF-1, which regulates the heat-shock response, also influences aging. Reducing hsf-1 activity accelerates tissue aging and shortens life-span, and we show that hsf-1 overexpression extends lifespan. We find that HSF-1, like the transcription factor DAF-16, is required for daf-2-insulin/IGF-1 receptor mutations to extend life-span. Our findings suggest this is because HSF-1 and DAF-16 together activate expression of specific genes, including genes encoding small heat-shock proteins, which in turn promote longevity. The small heat-shock proteins also delay the onset of polyglutamine-expansion protein aggregation, suggesting that these proteins couple the normal aging process to this type of age-related disease.
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              Mitochondria supply membranes for autophagosome biogenesis during starvation.

              Starvation-induced autophagosomes engulf cytosol and/or organelles and deliver them to lysosomes for degradation, thereby resupplying depleted nutrients. Despite advances in understanding the molecular basis of this process, the membrane origin of autophagosomes remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that, in starved cells, the outer membrane of mitochondria participates in autophagosome biogenesis. The early autophagosomal marker, Atg5, transiently localizes to punctae on mitochondria, followed by the late autophagosomal marker, LC3. The tail-anchor of an outer mitochondrial membrane protein also labels autophagosomes and is sufficient to deliver another outer mitochondrial membrane protein, Fis1, to autophagosomes. The fluorescent lipid NBD-PS (converted to NBD-phosphotidylethanolamine in mitochondria) transfers from mitochondria to autophagosomes. Photobleaching reveals membranes of mitochondria and autophagosomes are transiently shared. Disruption of mitochondria/ER connections by mitofusin2 depletion dramatically impairs starvation-induced autophagy. Mitochondria thus play a central role in starvation-induced autophagy, contributing membrane to autophagosomes. Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Academic Editor
                Journal
                PLoS Biol
                plos
                plosbiol
                PLoS Biology
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1544-9173
                1545-7885
                December 2010
                December 2010
                7 December 2010
                : 8
                : 12
                : e1000556
                Affiliations
                [1]Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
                University of Massachusetts Medical School, United States of America
                Author notes

                The author(s) have made the following declarations about their contributions: Conceived and designed the experiments: WY SH. Performed the experiments: WY. Analyzed the data: WY SH. Wrote the paper: WY SH.

                Article
                10-PLBI-RA-9198R1
                10.1371/journal.pbio.1000556
                2998438
                21151885
                83f4e064-53b2-4d21-98cf-8a834caa9bdc
                Yang, Hekimi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                History
                : 27 August 2010
                : 27 October 2010
                Page count
                Pages: 14
                Categories
                Research Article
                Developmental Biology/Aging

                Life sciences
                Life sciences

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